As City Connects expands in Indianapolis, Ind., we’re learning more about the power of local innovations.
Last September, City Connects launched in three Indianapolis schools, and we added two new features: a unique funding source and partnership with Marian University.
“I learned about City Connects years ago when I implemented this program in Springfield, Ohio, at a pre-K to 12 Catholic school system,” Dr. Ken Britt says. He is the Senior Vice President and Dean of Klipsch Educators College at Marian University. “I wanted to bring the program to Indiana because I believe that, coupled with our focus on teacher and leadership development, comprehensive student support can be a game-changer for young people. And there is no better program than City Connects.”
Frequently, school districts pay for City Connects using their own funds. Other districts have philanthropic partners who pay for some or all the costs. Indianapolis is unique because it’s the first district to use state funds.
While the blog is on summer vacation, we’re sharing past posts about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive.
This week’s roundup looks at staff members who are or have been part of City Connects, which is based at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.
Even as an undergraduate at Boston College, Maria Theodorakakis was looking for a way to combine her academic interests with hands-on work.
“I was looking for a major that really kind of combined my interest in psychology and sociology with my interest in helping kids and working in schools,” Theodorakakis recalls.
A conversation with the late John Cawthorne, a former Associate Dean in BC’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, led her to transfer from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Lynch School – and that’s where she found City Connects.
Back in those days, in 2007, when City Connects was only in five Boston schools, Theodorakakis applied for and received a summer research fellowship, joining the City Connects team.
Often City Connects grows because of, well, connections. That’s what happened when Una Shannon came from Ireland to Boston College to be a postdoctoral fellow. Shannon learned about City Connects and shared our work with Eugene Wall, the president of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, as well as sharing it with ministers from the Irish National Government.
The result: Irish educators are planning to launch a City Connects pilot program this fall in 10 Dublin schools.
“It strikes me that any ‘school person’ who hears about City Connects tends to have an ‘aha’ moment,” Shannon says. She’s a former teacher who earned her bachelor’s degree from Mary Immaculate College. “It just makes sense to support the whole child, to have a strengths-based perspective, and to have a systemic, systematic, and sustained approach to student support that’s in rhythm with school life.”
Sometimes a community partner provides fun, exercise, inspiration, confidence, and a chance to cheer for grown-ups. That’s the story of Girls on the Run Twin Cities, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to fulfill their potential, serve their communities, and run a 5K race.
As the school year draws to a close, City Connects Coordinators across the country are helping students prepare for summer, connecting them to services and opportunities that will help them succeed when school isn’t in session.
For Asha Quattrocchi, a City Connects Coordinator at the Cold Spring School in Indianapolis, Ind., this means sharing information and making connections.
It’s a new school year, so City Connects Coordinators are reinforcing existing relationships and building new ones.
At Catholic Central Elementary School, in Springfield, Ohio, where City Connects’ Coordinator Josh Richardt works, he tells students in pre-k through fifth grade, “I am so glad you’re in school today.”
There is also a sign hanging in the hallway that says, “You belong here.”
These messages weave students, especially new ones, firmly into the school’s fabric. And they build on a key finding from the developmental sciences: Relationships matter.
When C.J. McGowan became the City Connects Coordinator at Ascension Catholic School, she saw students who had many needs — and also many strengths.
“I saw a Catholic school in the north side of Minneapolis, which is the toughest side of the city, probably of the whole Twin Cities in terms of crime and poverty,” McGowan said, recalling her early days at Ascension.
“There were a handful of kids who had gone through trauma. The trauma of immigrating. The trauma of being poor and not being able to afford food on a regular basis. There were academic needs and some intense behavioral health needs. And yet, there were a ton of resilient kids doing their best and doing pretty well.”
She knew that — in addition to addressing students’ comprehensive needs — building on strengths and generating feelings of competence and confidence could change the way these students saw themselves as learners and could help them thrive. So that is what she did.
While the blog goes on summer vacation, we’ll spend the next few months sharing past posts and social media coverage about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive.
This week’s roundup collects some of the articles, research briefs, and policy proposals published by our partners and by the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children that share insights drawn from City Connects’ evidence-based model of integrated student support.
The Center for Thriving Children is the home of City Connects and is based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. The Center “advances science, implementation, and innovation to promote healthy child and youth development, learning, and thriving.”
These publications speak to long-standing student needs and to the ways these needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic.